I'd like to thank Horizon Hobby and Hobby Lobby publicly for providing discounts on items used in this review.
I became interested in X-Models X-Ray after perusing Hobby Lobby Internationals' website while looking for a new electric model. For what was being offered, a medium sized molded electric hot liner, it seemed like the plane was under priced at $329. I made a few phone calls and emails to see if the plane was all it was described to be. After being assured the X-Ray was as advertised, I immediately emailed the E-Zone editor Dave Lilly to see if a review was possible. We traded emails and I was given a "go" for the review.
I had to wait many weeks for the next shipment to arrive because Hobby Lobby had sold out. After receiving my kit, I understand why! Enclosed in the rather large box were two very nicely molded wing panel, a fiberglass fuselage, a one piece molded V-tail, an assortment of pushrods, clevises, decals, wires and virtually everything else needed to complete the model.
The molding on the X-Models X-Ray uses balsa between layers of fiberglass. A balsa spar with carbon caps is used to provide the strength. The wings are pre-painted in the mold and as far as I can tell, only yellow is available as the main color. I have seen blue accents, and the kit that I purchased has red accents.
|The kit comes this way right out of the box. You get expertly molded wings and V-tail, and a fiberglass fuselage. All the workmanship is high quality. Virtually all the items needed to build the X-Ray come standard.|
Let's get the gripes out of the way, as there are only two in my opinion and both are minor. First, the instruction book could be better. It's not bad really, but it could be improved. As an example, the manual never tells you to install the motor. You and I both know the motor needs to be installed, so they should tell you when and how to install the motor. Additionally, there was mention of a diagram on how to bend the control horns for the V-tails. My instructions didn't have any such drawing. Should these items have been included? Certainly, they should have. Are they showstoppers? They absolutely are not!
The second gripe is the supplied ABS covers for the aileron servos don't look like they are part of this kit. The molded relief in each wing requires a much wider cover. Again, I don't consider this a reason not to buy this kit. In general, due to the amount of prefabrication, an experienced modeler could easily assemble this kit without the instructions. All of the little things I mention are just that, little.
Since the kit is supplied with everything built, all that the builder is required to get the X-Ray into the air is install some minor parts like the control horns for the flying surfaces, mount the radio, etc.
|Here are the control horns prior to their installation. Since I didn't have the drawing, I had to wing it. Actually, it was easy because I have experience with many V-tail planes.|
|Here is a close up of the control horn. As you can see, I cut several grooves into the horns so the epoxy has something to grab. This way the horns can't rotate even if the epoxy breaks loose from the wire.|
The wings only require installation of the aileron servos and installation of the control horns. The X-Ray is supplied with some very neat button top threaded inserts for the aileron control horns. To install them, simply drill the appropriate size hole, drop in some 5-minute epoxy, install the insert, and then you are done. Do be careful though, since the top hinge line and the bottom cutout for relief are not directly above and below one another. I accidentally drilled the first hole using the bottom hinge line as a reference. This put the hole perilously close to the upper hinge line. Use the hinge line on the top of the wing to determine where the insert should be installed.
|As you can see, the cut out in the wing is much larger than the cover. My guess is these covers go to a different airplane. I was still able to make them work, and they were better than having the servo exposed.|
The mounting holes for the wing are already drilled for you. All that remains is installing the servos and their associated wiring. The kit provides more than enough wire to hook up the ailerons. There are a number of ways to mount servos in a molded wing. Probably the easiest is using a couple drops of CA or silicone. However, I was concerned that if there were a need to remove the servos later, it would damage the beautiful wing. I chose to make my own mounts from 1/8" by 1/4" spruce. I made the frames so the servos wouldn't move around. I then used a metal strap to keep them from falling out. As mentioned earlier, the ABS covers didn't fit very well, but I managed to make them work. They are simply taped on three sides, with the aft portion left open.
The fuselage is a beautiful piece of work. It's light and with the carbon reinforcements, yet it's plenty strong for the task. The tail mount is already installed and pre-drilled. However, whoever thought of using a flat bladed screw head to mount the V-tail should be severely reprimanded. It was a real bear to get the screw started in the tail. A cross point or Allen head screw would be much easier! The installation of the servo mounts and the motor come next. I purchased Hobby Lobby's recommended package of the Jeti Phasor 45/3 Brushless Motor with a Jeti 40-3P Opto Controller, and the Aeronaut CAM carbon prop set up. There is plenty of room in the fuselage for batteries and equipment so installing the recommended items was no trouble at all. I did re-tap the motor bolts for SAE threads. The kit contains a plywood mount that fits JR/Graupner 341 servos. For this review I purchased JR's new 368 Micro Digital servos. These metal-geared beauties are in the same size case as the 341-351's, so they drop right in.
|Here are the control horns for the V-tail installed. Without the mentioned photo, I had to use experience to decide how the control horns should be setup. Other than a little initial binding, they worked out great once I adjusted the pushrod.|
Tail construction consists of bending and installing the control horns. I've included several photos in case your kit is missing the diagram as mine did. It was a simple task to bend the wires, but it took a little time to get them set up so they work properly. When I hooked up the pushrods, there was some binding of the rod and the stab reinforcement block in the fuselage. I bent the wire portion of the pushrod to clear this area.
As mentioned above, I used the recommended brushless motor and speed control combination that Hobby Lobby recommended. I used four JR 368 Digital servos for the ailerons and the V-tail. You could easily remove one of the V-tail servos and its associated linkage to save an additional 1.5 ounces. Since this isn't a contest ship, I didn't feel the weight gain of an extra servo and pushrod would matter much.
I use "Gordy Cells" that many of you know about. They are surplus cells that were used as back ups for medical equipment as I understand it. I made up a 10-cell pack of 1700's, which fit right in place behind the motor and in front of the servos. The Hitec Super Slim receiver is attached with Velcro on the side of the fuselage, and everything balances just as it should. An Airtronics Vision provides guidance.
|OFB Ken Stone models the X-Ray. With less than a two-meter span, the plane is easy to take while traveling. Ken found the X-Ray easy to fly either fast or slow.|
I contacted my OFB (Old Flying Buddy) Ken Stone to help with the initial flights and photography. As is normal for us, I took the first flight to check everything out and make sure the plane was trimmed out. We made the first flight with a less than fully charged battery. I only planned to get the plane to altitude, and then trim it to check for basic handling, so the low battery charge didn't pose a problem. The first launch was made a full throttle with the previously mentioned 10-cell pack. It quickly became apparent that some form of mixing was needed, as the plane required quite a bit of down trim when the motor was at maximum. Surprisingly, I spent the majority of the first flight at half throttle or less. While the plane can be a speedster with full power, it's actually quite docile at partial throttle. After about seven minutes of familiarization, I set up for landing. Then I set up for another one, and another one! This plane just wants to fly. I lost count of the aborted approaches, but I finally was able to land close enough that I didn't need to go for a long walk. The RG-15 airfoil allows the X-Ray to cover lots of ground, which works out great for thermal searching, but makes setting up for landings a little tricky until you get used to it.
|The X-Ray can fly fast or fairly slowly. It's definitely not a floater. It shows lift fairly well, but in thermal turns, you need to keep the speed up to prevent a fairly abrupt stall.|
After fully charging the battery, I launched the X-Ray, got it up to altitude, and passed the transmitter to Ken. It was satisfying to see the smile come over his face as he raced the X-Ray around the sky. I had him fly slow U-control circles around me so I could get the in-flight shots. He too found the plane enjoyable at less than full tilt. After getting the flight photos, he cranked in full power. Even with virtually all the down trim available in the radio, it still wanted to climb severely. I told Ken to cut this flight short so we could get a launch photo. Now it was his turn to make aborted approaches! I think he was able to get it close enough to us after four or five tries.
The next flight was more of the same fun. The X-Ray shows lift fairly well, but at less than two meter and close to 70 ounces, you have to keep the speed up to prevent a fairly abrupt stall. As long as you keep the X-Ray moving, it's a blast to fly.
|Ken Stone launches the X-Ray for the camera. As you can see, the plane has already started to rotate. Some form of mixing sure makes flying the X-Ray easier. While not an absolute requirement, a mixing (computer) radio takes a tremendous amount of stress out of flying the X-Ray.|
For throws, I recommend up aileron of 1/4" to 3/8", down aileron of 1/8" to 3/16", up and down elevator of 1/4" to 3/8". I also recommend using throttle-elevator mixing. I'd start with 1/8" down elevator at full throttle. For landings, use about 1/4" up in the ailerons to act as spoilers, and use reverse differential. You'll need elevator compensation with the spoilerons, so try them at altitude. You can fly the X-Ray if you don't have a mixing radio, but it sure makes it easier to fly with a radio that has mixing capabilities.
In a nutshell, this plane is well worth the money! It's not light enough to be considered an F5B model, but it sure is fun to take to the power field and show the locals that all electrics aren't slow. I'd love to try it with five to six more cells. I bet it would be a rocket. I'm really impressed with the JR 368 Digital servos. They sell for only a few dollars more than non-digital metal gear servos, and in my opinion, they are well worth the few extra dollars. The motor and speed control provide excellent power for the money. They weigh a little more than some other brands, but again, for non-contest work, they will make you quite happy with the power output and financial savings.
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